‘Those city lights don’t bother me, Northampton Town I’m proud to be...’
That’s a line you will hear sung a few times from the east end of Wembley on Saturday, and when I think of the Cobblers turning out at the national stadium in the npower League Two play-off final, ‘proud’ is how I will be feeling.
Yes, the day is all about the team winning promotion.
Yes, it will be a huge anti-climax if the team don’t now finish the job and go up after all the effort over 48 matches to get to this point.
Yes, it will be hard to take if Bradford City turn Aidy Boothroyd’s men over at the national stadium.
But, win or lose, this trip to Wembley, and the achievement of the team and club in getting there, from the depths they have been at times in the past two years, is one I am going to be proud of.
Another ‘p’ word that keeps popping into my head when I think of Wembley is ‘party’.
An army of 22,000-plus will be travelling south from Northampton to cheer the team on, and fingers-crossed the club’s first trip to the new Wembley is going to end in victory.
The Cobblers are slight underdogs for the final, with Boothroyd’s men having failed to beat Bradford in their four previous meetings this season.
The Bantams do seem to have had a bit of an Indian sign over the Cobblers this campaign, but that will count for absolutely nothing at Wembley.
Cheltenham were another side that had a good record against Town, having won both league games in the regular season, and we all know what happened when the Cobblers met them in the play-off semi-finals a couple of weeks ago.
In 1997, Ian Atkins took his Northampton side to Wembley to take on a Swansea City side that had beaten them twice in the Nationwide League Division Three campaign, and one sweet swing of John Frain’s left boot put paid to the South Wales side’s supposed supremacy.
And it’s not as if Bradford have outclassed or outplayed the Cobblers in any of the matches this season, although they probably did just about deserve their two league wins.
They were narrow 1-0 victories, while the two FA Cup matches ended in draws.
Indeed, looking back to April 6 and the most recent meeting between the sides, if Bradford think the Cobblers are going to play anything like they did at Valley Parade that day, they may be in for a bit of a surprise.
At the time of that game, Town were desperately out of form, and almost totally reliant on set-pieces when it came to attacking play.
But the team has come out of that slump that ultimately cost them automatic promotion.
The Cobblers are now playing a more attractive brand of football, scoring some cracking goals (think Roy O’Donovan v Port Vale, Barnet and Cheltenham, think Luke Guttridge v Barnet and Cheltenham) and are full of confidence.
Bradford are going to be a threat, no question, but they do have weaknesses.
The fact they lost the home leg of their semi-final 3-2 to Burton Albion should be encouragement alone for the Cobblers, and then there is the small matter that the Bantams ended the league two season four points worse off than Boothroyd’s men.
As we are constantly told, the league table doesn’t lie.
So the Cobblers are going into Saturday’s game in good form and, more importantly, in a good frame of mind.
The players will be buoyed by the fact they dealt well with the pressure of the semi-finals, and now we just have to hope they respond well to being given the chance of playing on possibly the world’s biggest, and most famous, footballing stage.
And this is where the supporters can play their part, because I guarantee the players will be lifted if by a sea of claret and white, and a wall of Northampton noise.
I know the travelling support at Cheltenham inspired the players, they said as much afterwards, and they can be key again at Wembley.
So, here’s hoping we can all be proud of our team and town on Saturday - and that we can have a right good party as well!
Up the Cobblers.